House Bill 1149, the state’s No-Smoking Law, should be getting the governor’s signature any day now, but state Rep. Charlie Brown is nowhere near done fighting.
To say Brown, the statehouse’s biggest proponent of a smoke-free state, is disappointed in the draft that’s made it to Gov. Mitch Daniels’ desk is an understatement. But the legislator, winding down from the short General Assembly session that ended March 9, also understands that sometimes, change doesn’t happen as fast as we want.
“This isn’t a sprint,” Brown said. “But public opinion is growing (in favor), and we’re not going to stop until we are totally smoke-free.”
The amendments added to the original bill — among them allowing smoking in casino boats, private clubs, and bars and taverns with no restaurants attached — were, in Brown’s opinion, ways in which to kill the bill entirely. There’s certainly a contingent, he said, that works under the assumption that government shouldn’t dictate to the private business sector how it should be run.
If that same contingent would also like to save the state money, going to a non-smoking state would certainly help.
“The state of Indiana spends $1.3 billion on patients with no insurance suffering from secondhand smoke-related illnesses, but we’re cutting money for education?” Brown said. “That money could go a long way to solving philosophical differences.”
Meanwhile, area businesses are frustrated by both the bill’s lack of teeth and what they feel are its lack of fairness. Gayle Spain, co-owner of Traditions Pub in Highland, said the popular bar and restaurant will go smoke-free when the ban goes into effect July 1. But she’s concerned that whatever business gained on the restaurant side may be canceled out by the business lost on the bar side.
“I haven’t seen the official final reading, but if the state means that by bar or tavern, there’s no food served, I’m 99 percent sure we’re going to lose out,” Spain said. “I don’t like the idea that our after-work crowd who wants to have a beer and a cigarette only will be able to go across the street.
“There’s going to be plusses and minuses.
Louie Kalafatis, who owns Martinis in Valparaiso, is annoyed the law doesn’t go far enough.
“I grew up in New York and New Jersey, and being smoke-free doesn’t hurt any businesses there at all. You go to weddings there all the time, and there’s outdoor smoking,” he said. “But as long as everyone follows the same rules, it’ll help everyone. Preferential treatment, though, could put someone out of business.”
Anna Toledo, general manager for Mi Tierra Restaurant in Griffith, welcomes the change.
“I don’t think it will affect business in the long run. We have very few customers these days that smoke. Those that do I’m sure will adjust,” she said. “I’d like to think our customers come here because they like our food and not because we have had a smoking section.”